Thursday, 17 February 2011

Doctors' strike on the cards as BMA calls emergency meeting on NHS reforms

The British Medical Association has called an emergency meeting on 15 March to discuss a wholesale re-assessment of its current tactic of critical engagement with the government over its NHS reforms (or decimation, if you prefer).

There is huge disquiet in the profession, both with the way in which the government appears to have ignored all criticism (constructive or otherwise) over the Health and Social Care Bill and also with the lack of robust public reaction from the BMA leadership.

Dr Steve Hajioff, who will chair the special meeting, has said that "absolutely everything about our response and the way we engage could change, with the bill as a whole and sub-sections... That could vary from welcoming something, to doing nothing, to organising a strike ballot".


Meanwhile, to compound existing warnings regarding the impact of the Bill on accountability, on the potential for service privatisation and on fragmentation of provision, there have been a slew of further criticisms from members of the BMA.

Tom Dolphin, representing junior doctors, described the Bill in its current form as being a ‘disaster’ for education and training, arguing that the changes will fragment the service and make training far more difficult. The chair of the Conference of Postgraduate Medical Deans was equally uncharitable: ‘The structural changes are huge but, with the greatest respect, hardly thought through at all.’

In the area of public health the government's programme is under attack, from its hands off approach to dealing with the alcohol and food industry to its proposals to devolve power to local councils for public health provision.

Here's hoping that the government can be persuaded do to the Health and Social Care Bill what has just been done to its forestry proposals... 38 Degrees have their petition up and running already. For, as a GP wrote powerfully to the Guardian recently:

"Why, if thousands are prepared to march against the privatisation of forests, do we not have millions out on the street marching against the privatisation of the NHS?"

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